Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gathering up the Fragments

A few months ago Dad spoke at a little church in a tiny town about an hour away from home. His text was from John, and he spoke about Jesus feeding the 5000 men - plus women and children.

Here's the story, from the New American Standard Bible:
John 6
 1 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” 8 One of His disciples,Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

The story is familiar: the little boy with his little fish and small loaves of bread. Jesus blessing and breaking and passing food out. Everyone having enough to eat.

But the part that captures my attention in this story is afterwards. The part about Jesus directing His disciples to collect the crumbs, the morsels of food that people had dropped inadvertently, the crusts that picky eaters had thrown out deliberately.

All those fragments ... 

Dad asked the question: What do you suppose happened to those twelve baskets of fragments?

And I started to think about it. More about that later.

Shortly after this sermon started to take root in my heart and my imagination, Jocelyn and Curtis were working on a Sunday evening when our favourite blue tea cup unaccountably separated itself from its handle. Josie posted her woe on FaceBook and people's tongue-in-cheek reactions took over:

    • Suki Braich Badesha likes this.

      • Karyn Ironside Jocelyn BeltTiffany Ibbotson,Curtis Benavides and Ken McDonald - maybe now we can have some closure for this whole traumatic event ...

      • Krista Lee Ewert so the way, I have been thinking all night how I could really use some of your rice pudding right about now.

      • Scott Harding Heather is tearing up, she used that cup a few times ;)

      • Allison Bale-Akizuki Can't you glue it? :(

      • Meleah Holloway What happened?

      • Karyn Ironside Here's the original trail:

        Jocelyn Belt: the death of a teacup is like an old friend moving away without saying goodbye. A crack in a teacup is the equivalent of seeing a hole in the sun. It just isn't right. Today we say goodbye to the most favorite teacup in the tea house. A part of us it will always be. You paragon blue beauty, you will be missed.

         Jocelyn Belt So young, so much potential. One wrong move and its dreams of serving tea for years, was crushed.

         Laura Giovanetto I can relate with this so much. :(

        Tiffany Ibbotson WHAT?!?!?!?

        Daryl Wilson Alicia says, "NO! Not dear paragon!"

        Jocelyn Belt Tiffany!! I'm sorry!! I... I... I was distraught!!!

        Karyn Ironside But the good thing about friendship with tea cups is that a new friend will be along right away to fill the void!

        Tiffany Ibbotson Awe! That's ok Josie.

        Ken McDonald This is one of the most emotional threads I have ever read on FB. I need a tissue.

        Karyn Ironside You should have been at the scene of the tragedy last night, Ken ...

        Ken McDonald Probably a good thing I wasn't. The emotional scarring would've set me back years in counselling and therapy.

        Curtis Benavides NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

        Katrina Holoboff :( this is a tragic event. I feel for the loss of a teacup.

      • Alana MacDonald Looks like it has been a rough weekend for your china :(

      • Bronwyn Spilsbury I know that feeling. I'm very sorry. Goodbye, all that the cup represents - and is. It always will be so beautiful.

The loss of that tea cup was felt deeply by my staff, and by customers who for some reason had become very attached to the little blue Paragon cup. I saved the pieces in my "Broken China" stash and went on to choose another cup and saucer to fill the void in the Wall of Great China.

Life has a way of going on, though, and just a few days later I was packing and hopping the plane for Bangalore. Our time was filled with meetings, cooking, meals, children, friends, shopping, reading, music, travelling, visiting. There was no time to dwell on a few fragments of china.

When I arrived back in Trois Lumps from India this time, however, something had changed. The change was in me. I felt scattered, pulled in various directions, splintered even. I longed to be in India but wanted to draw my family close about me.

I felt like I had been fed time and again from the miraculous loaves and fishes - my Dad spoke about 31 times in 25 days; additionally, there was a wonderful Irish preacher and his travelling companion, Ronnie, whom we met at Dr Nair's college and who ministered to the local people and to Dad, Deb and me. 

But all in all I felt like I was not worth much more than some of those thrown-away crusts. What could I, with my disjointed, fragmented, incohesive life, have to offer to God and to the ministry of His people?

Gather up the fragments, Jesus had directed.

I pondered fragments throughout April. I have pieces of myself in the original Nilgiris, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Coimbatore and Assam; then there are strands of my heart in South Africa, wrapped around a boy called Alex; there are crumbs in Alabama and now a few have been left in North Carolina with my college friend Michelle; Calgary holds a handful, as do Regina, Kindersley, northern BC, Hanna, Big Valley and Edmonton. And then of course there's Three Hills, with Nilgiris the TH and all the people I love here.

A veritable Hansel and Gretel trail of crumbs!

Could I gather them all up, I wondered; and if I succeeded, what could this pile of fragments be used for?

What were those baskets used for? Who would be grateful for crumbs?

I let my imagination wander a bit to the faith of some of the people who were the recipients of miracles that Jesus performed. There was the Canaanite mother who came to Jesus beseeching Him to heal her daughter, who was oppressed by a demon. Jesus seemed to rebuff her, saying that He was there for the Jews and that a person wouldn't take food from their children to feed their dogs. The woman responded, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table!"

There were ten lepers who called out to Jesus as He went by and He healed them all.

There was Blind Bartimaeus, a beggar who beseeched Jesus from his spot on the ground to have mercy on him.

Then there was the woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years and who thought to herself, "If I could but touch the hem of His garment, I know I would be healed ..."

As I thought about them, I realized that they would all have had something in common: they were all dispossessed, all shunned by society. They would have had no way to make a living; they would have had to scrounge for their next meal.

They would have been thankful for fragments of bread and fish.

Maybe they received a portion of the fragments - that is also how they might have learnt of the great power of Jesus and - with nothing to lose - they could have thought of the crumbs and dared to ask for more.

As I thought of the power of fragments, I started to imagine what it would look like if I could gather up the fragments of my life, and if they could even be patched into something of perhaps a little worth.

I tried to picture what that would look like, what it would be good for.

And then my birthday came, and with it came a box.

Inside that box, very carefully handed to me from BA, was something that looked slightly familiar, but not.

There was a canvas, brightly coloured; as I peered more closely, I could see pieces of memories I had almost forgotten.
In disbelief I slowly reached out my hand to touch the centre of the canvas.
I saw how it nestled into the swirl of colour and texture around it. I saw how it anchored the entire piece.

It was a beautiful flower, this flower of fragments, its stem and its petals as delicate and as lovely as almost any rose you could pluck from a garden.

It was planted in a garden of pebbles and glass and semiprecious stones.

It was our treasured tea cup, taken apart and put together again in a setting more distinctive, more memorable, than when it was a mere two-pieced cup-and-saucer.

It was not alone: the fragments of three other treasured but damaged cups had been artfully tucked into corners and crevices in a way that brought out their understated, subtle beauty. 

Most significant of all to me was that the blue Paragon cup flower was resting in the centre of a cross.
The stem of the flower looked like it could also be a path - the crumb path of Hansel and Gretel? - leading the traveller to the heart of the picture.
As I gazed into the picture, trying various lights to bring out different hidden depths, it all coalesced for me.

In the hands of a Master, fragments that others might discard had been brought to life in this exquisite piece.

I have never met Marcia Hinds, but she is a dear friend and inspiration to Bronwyn and Paul and I have seen some of her pieces, heart-stopping in their beauty, adorning their home.

And now I owned one! How it all came about is that when I was in India, Bronwyn and Marcia started talking about The Teacup. They quickly prevailed upon BA to find the broken cup and other cups that might work with it, and to send them to Marcia. With the three of them communicating and sharing pictures of the work in progress - Deb and Dad were included in this stage! - the piece arrived (shipped to BA's care!) in time for May 3rd.

The other thing that moves me enormously is that the fragments had found a home. The cup had had to be broken into small pieces before its full beauty could be showcased. And its home was the centre of the cross. 

Fragments are valuable. Jesus knew this; that's why He got the disciples to gather them up.

The fragments of the tea cup have gained far more value than they would have as just a cup and saucer.

The fragments of my life are valuable too. None of them is wasted. None of them is a mistake. And when put together by the hand of the Master and both sheltered in the shadow of the cross and leaving a trail leading to the cross, these fragments will be woven into a work of beauty that I can scarcely imagine.


  1. Nice work all around. I noticed the piece when I had the chance, but I didn't look carefully enough to recognize a teacup -- or the Hansel and Gretel trail! Thanks for giving my Saturday morning such a hopeful start.

  2. I am so glad, Karyn, that this gift is for you much more than a work of art; that it's also a piece of the answer to the parts of your heart.
    You are more lovely than a cup poured out; you are more beloved than a perfect set, more treasured than memories of former days. You are an enduring, glowing picture of Christ's grace, and your life shows a path to His heart.
    Love you! Happy birthday every day!


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